Many other hill towns in Uttarakhand are hearing the alarm bells that have been blaring since the catastrophe in Joshimath, with its citizens pointing out that they, too, are at risk due to fissures in buildings and roadways.
Since the beginning of January, when the crisis in Joshimath worsened as a result of an aquifer burst in the 520 MW Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower project's under-construction tunnel, cracks in the town's buildings have widened and panicked residents have demanded action. This issue of collapsing buildings has echoed in many other locations in the Himalayan state, including Karnaprayag, Uttarkashi.
In Rishikesh, cracks have developed in at least 85 houses in Atali village. Locals claim it was due to the ongoing railway tunnel work as part of the Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail project. Villagers said cracks have appeared in almost all houses and agricultural fields.
Another region experiencing fissures and earth subsidence is Tehri Garhwal, particularly in and around the teeny hamlet of Chamba. Residents have been pushing for rapid action due to their fear of landslides. The majority of the impacted homes are close to a 440-meter-long tunnel being built for the Char Dham road project in the central market area of Chamba.
Veteran environmentalist Anil Joshi, a Padma Bhushan awardee, who is founder of Dehradun-based Himalayan Environment Studies and Conservation Organisation, said, “Owing to repeated negligence by the authorities concerned, the Joshimath issue does not come as a shock to me. The matter had been flagged in 1976 but no one took note of it. It is time that we focus on our hill towns as a priority and take immediate steps to prevent further deterioration.”